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Equal Pay Act 1972

Published December 7, 2017 (last updated on April 16, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Copywriter and Content Creator

Since the early 20th century, women in New Zealand and around the world have fought for equal pay in the workforce. Until 1960, it was legal for men and women to be paid different rates despite doing the same work. The Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960 abolished this gender-based pay scale for workers in the public sector, before the Equal Pay Act 1972 applied the same principles to the private sector.

Today, the gender pay gap remains a hotly debated issue. Statistics show female-dominated occupations tend to be lower paid and women in higher-level jobs are under-represented.

While the fight for equality in the workforce continues for female workers in New Zealand and around the world, the Equal Pay Act 1972 was one of many successful stepping stones towards reaching this goal.

About the Equal Pay Act 1972

The Equal Pay Act 1972 is a New Zealand law amending the unequal pay rate between male and female workers. It ensures all employees are paid equally based on the value of their work and skill without any regard to the gender of the employee.

In the Act’s own words, it is:

“An Act to make provision for the removal and prevention of discrimination, based on the sex of the employees, in the rates of remuneration of males and females in paid employment, and for matters incidental thereto.”

The Act clearly outlines a broad range of rules, guides and definitions regarding equal pay that employers must understand and follow to be compliant with employment law.

Some of the topics the Act goes into detail about include:

  • The definition of unlawful discrimination

  • How to determine equal pay

  • Interim increases

  • How to recover unpaid wages based on the grounds of equal pay

  • Records employers must keep

  • How to manage pay increases for female employees

Guidelines for Businesses

The Act outlines a number of key criteria businesses must satisfy to be compliant with New Zealand law. These range from pay equity to ensuring the company provides equal opportunity for all their employees.

Below are some of the most important takeaways from the Act of importance to businesses across New Zealand:

  • No employment agreements or apprenticeship orders shall contain classifications of work that differentiate on the basis of the sex of the employees.

  • It is unlawful to refuse, or fail to offer any person the same benefits that are available to persons of the same or similar qualifications, and in the same or similar circumstances of work, based on sex of that person.

  • The rate of remuneration for all awards, agreements and apprenticeship orders must be equal among male and female workers with similar qualifications and working conditions.

  • There should be no inequalities in regards to part-time and full-time rates of pay among male and female workers.

  • Any employee is entitled to make a claim for unpaid wages on the grounds of unequal pay.

Benefits of Equal Pay in the Workforce

A fair and balanced pay structure is not only a legal requirement, it is good for business too. Below are some of the many benefits to having an equal and balanced pay in the workforce:

  • Establishes fairness and respect in the workplace

  • Improves staff retention rates and saves money on retraining new staff

  • Reduces the risk of claims against the company

  • Presents a positive image to consumers and inspires confidence

  • Makes the company an attractive and inviting place to work

For advice regarding equal payments and what it means for your business, contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

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